There have been times in my life where I have had an overwhelming sense of God’s presence. These encounters are vivid, life-changing, and transformative. There are at least three times that I can recall when my surroundings faded away and I sensed the presence of God.
My first occurrence was in Bible College. I was in a Chapel service, and one specific evening I was feeling convicted that I had allowed pride to creep into my life. I was not only convicted of pride, but I also had a conviction of unrepented sin in my life. I began praying as the music played and I prayed for brokenness and repentance. I prayed… and I prayed… and I prayed... Suddenly the music of the praise band started to fade in my mind, and I had a sense that I was alone in the presence of God. I spent what felt like a lapse of time in the presence of God repenting and crying over my sinfulness. It was beautiful, it was transformative, and it was scary but freeing.
The second time was at a staff meeting at a church in Erie, PA. Every Monday the Pastoral staff would gather for lunch. We would eat, talk, and pray together. One afternoon when we had finished our lunches, we entered a time prayer like we always did; except this time nobody started with prayer. We were silent for a few moments. At first it felt a bit awkward. Then a few seconds turned into minutes and minutes turned into about a half an hour. We were in complete silence. I prayed and sought God and his plan for my life, ministry, and family. I cannot begin to explain this time in the holy presence of God. When we ended, we all just looked at each other and didn’t really say much to each other but we all knew that we had spent time in the presence of the King. It was refreshing.
The third time was at my friend Thom Potts’ funeral service. It may sound strange to have an encounter with God at a funeral, but it was a funeral like I had never attended before. The service began with a time of praise and worship. As soon as the few men began playing the songs the presence of God was sensed by us all. Carrie and I both recall the amazing time of worship we experienced. In our time of grief and celebration Jesus showed up and ministered to us all.
Encounters with God are special, life changing, and transformative for individuals who enter the presence of God almighty. Today we will look at an encounter the Apostle John had with Jesus Christ that not only changed his life but changed the face of Christianity.
Today and the next couple of weeks we will spend in the book of Revelation. This letter is full of symbolism, visions, and strange occurrences (i.e., multi-headed beasts emerging from the sea, stinging locusts, false prophets, and angels).
Revelation 1:1 – 3
Vs. 1: “This is a Revelation of Jesus Christ” – The Greek word for Revelation is “apocalypse” means unveiling, more specifically unveiling of something that was once hidden. This means that this is a revelation given to John by Jesus as the Father revealed it to Him.
“the events that must soon take place.” – History is not a random sequence of unrelated events, but divinely orchestrated events that must come to pass. Now, many have an issue with the word, “shortly” or “soon to take place”. According to theologian Robert Mounce, “One solution is to understand ‘shortly’ in the sense of suddenly, or without delay once the appointed time comes.” (Mounce p. 65). However, some also believe that John is speaking of the persecution of the church that did, in fact, take place shortly. And some hold to taking the word in a straightforward sense. This means that in the prophetic or futuristic view of the word, the end is always impending or imminent.
Vs 3: “God blesses the one who reads…” A blessing is pronounced on those who read this letter. Not only to those who read it, but those who read it aloud. Reading scripture aloud publicly was a Jewish practice. At first, someone from the congregation was chosen to read and this person probably had proficiency in the art of reading. The ability to read well was not something that was a common trait. The position of Scripture reader became an official office in the early church.
“the words of this prophecy…” We also understand that John sees this work as prophetic literature that on par with the OT prophetic books thus possessing an authority which required the obedient response of all believers.
“he blesses all who listen to its message and obey what it says…” Not only are those blessed who read it, but also to those who both hear (by faith) and keep (obedience) to all that is written in the letter
Revelation 1:4 - 9
Verse 4: “Seven Churches in the province of Asia” – Normally the NT refers to Asia as the Roman province that is known as Asia Minor or as it is known as modern day Turkey. It is not clear why Revelation is addressed to these seven churches. There were other churches in Asia Minor other than the seven mentioned here and they are of equal importance.
One of the reasons it is believed that the letter was written to seven churches is because the number seven represents completeness. In Judaism seven has a specific significance because of the Sabbath.
“Grace to you and peace from him who is, who always was, and who is still to come.” Grace and peace come from a threefold source…. “who was, who is, and who is to come.” John paraphrases the divine to remind his readers that God is eternally existent… He has no beginning or end. It is written at an appropriate time where the church was in the shadow of impending persecution. The future is uncertain, so they needed to have hope in the one who is sovereign over all humanity.
“Sevenfold Spirit…” Some interpret this to represent the complete manifestation of the Holy Spirit’s being. Some see this as a reference to the seven archangels of Jewish Tradition. In Enoch 20:1 – 8 these angels are named Uriel, Raphael, Raguel, Michael, Saraqael, Gabriel, and Remiel. However, this is unlikely since it would be a strange intrusion of Jewish tradition into Christian thought. There is uncertainty as to what these seven angels represent conclusively but we can deduce that they are part of a heavenly entourage that has a special ministry in connection to Christ.
Verse 5: Grace and peace proceed from the eternal God, the seven Spirits, and from Jesus Christ who has the threefold title of …
Verse 7: cf. Daniel 7:13 & Zech. 12:10. Jesus will be returning as the victorious Christ and when HE returns his sovereignty will be openly manifested “every eye will see him, even those who pierce him…” The wailing will not be the same as in Zech. Instead, it will be a wailing because of impending judgment.
Verse 8: “Alpha and Omega…” This represents the Hebrew Aleph, and Tau, which is regarded not only as the first and last letters of the Hebrew alphabet, but also including all letters in between. Thus, God is the sovereign Lord of all human history. As the sovereign Lord he is the “the Almighty”.
Verse 9: The Apostle John writes this letter from the island of Patmos. It was a rocky island located in the Aegean Sea. It was an exile island where people were sent who banished for religious or political reasons. The Apostle John tells us he was sent there for preaching the Gospel.
Revelation 1:10 - 16
Verse 10 - 11: “It was the Lord’s Day, and I was worshiping in the Spirit.”– Some have suggested “In the Spirit” meant that John was taken from the Island of Patmos and transferred to the throne room of Heaven (we see this in Chapter 4). Others suggest and probably more rightly that John was in a trance like state, or he had a holy vision or revelation.
Early Christians recognized Sunday as the day Jesus rose from the dead thus the Lord’s Day was recognized as Sunday. Pagans would also set aside a day to honor the emperor, and in response Christians chose the first day of the week to honor Christ.[i]
John hears a loud thunderous voice telling him to write down what he is told and send it to the seven churches.
Verse 12 – 16: John turns around to see the person who is speaking to him, and I am certain he is not prepared for what he is about to see.
In the next few verses John gives the reader a vivid description of the risen and glorious savior. These verses are filled with symbolism and give us a glimpse of our Savior in his full glory in the heavenly places.
The number 7: The number seven is significant in this passage and in the Bible for that matter. In this passage there are seven lamp stands, churches, stars, and angels. Seven is the number of completeness. This is something we should keep in our minds as we continue along.
Revelation 1:7 - 20
Verse 17: John’s response was no different than yours or mine would be if we encountered Jesus in His full glory. He falls at Jesus’ feet as if dead. In fact, his response is similar to the reactions of Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel when they had visions of Jesus as well.
Verses 17b – 20: Jesus reassures John. “Do not be afraid…” These are words Jesus uses repeatedly to comfort his people. We must remember John was living in a time of persecution and it was going to get worse, and Jesus tells him not to be afraid. He comforts John and restores his confidence so he can hear the words that he is about to speak. He assures him that he is the one who was at the beginning, has no end; and he has conquered death. He lived, he died, and he rose from the dead. He holds the key to death and Hades which means he has the power over death and Hades and the Bible is clear that this power belongs to God and God alone.
John is then commanded to write down the things he has seen (the vision of Jesus), the things he is about to hear (the letters to the church) and the things that take place after this (the future and heavenly glories).
So how does all this translate for us today? For starters it should stir up in us a sense of awe and wonder because of the greatness of our savior. It should pique interest in what Jesus has to say to the Church. On a personal level it should speak to you about the magnificence of Jesus. In Revelation we see He is sovereign over the world. He is present in the Church today. He is our high priest who makes intercession for us. He is our judge. He is the head of the Church. He is pure. His Word is powerful. He has all power and authority over death and Hades. He was once dead but is now alive. He is the King who is seated on the throne in heaven. If you skip ahead and read the conclusion, you will see Jesus is victorious over evil and because of this we are as well.
[i] The New International Commentary on the New Testament: Revelation (1977) Mounce, Robert: Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdman’s Publishing. P. 76
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Jeff has been in ministry for well over two decades. He currently serves as Campus Pastor at West Bradenton Baptist Southside Campus in Bradenton, Florida.
Jeff Has authored an Advent Devotional (The Advent of Jesus) and a devotional on the book of James (James: Where Faith and Life Meet). Both are available on Amazon.
He is married to Carrie and they have four children, Micaiah, Gabe, Simon, and Berea.
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